Thursday, 4 July 2013
Cooperative Cuba emerges
As part of the economic "updating" programme, and as part of a general effort to speed up economic growth, the Cuban government announced on 28 June that that 124 new co-operatives would begin operations on 1 July in the agricultural, construction, transportation, recycling and produce marketing sectors. Of the 124 co-operatives, 99 will operate farmers’ markets in the western provinces of Havana, Artemisa and Mayabeque, two will focus on the recycling sector and 12 will be involved in construction activities. Another six will offer vehicle maintenance services while the remaining five will be involved in passenger transportation, such as taxi cabs and school buses. The new co-operative markets will function independently of state entities and businesses, be free to set prices in cases where they are not fixed by the State and divide profits as they see fit. “Through this new measure, we are hoping to manage as (private) cooperatives those state-run economic activities that have not been efficient,” Grisel Trista Arbesu, head of the Business Improvement Group of the Permanent Commission for Development and Implementation, said. “The measure also allows the State to gradually extricate itself from activities that are not of vital importance to economic development.”
The Cuban government hopes the new cooperatives will boost productivity and allow the State to cut public spending by reducing the number of people on the government payroll. Co-operatives can play “an important role in the country’s economy, although the main role will continue to be the socialist state enterprise,” said Ruben Toledo, a colleague of Grisel Trista Arbesu. Co-operatives are not new. There are several thousand agricultural co-operatives in Cuba. However, this is the first time that co-operatives have been created for non-agricultural activities. According to the government, more than 430,000 people now work in the non-state sector. This figure excludes those employed in agricultural cooperatives and around 400,000 small farmers.